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Noncompliant L.A. restaurants and bars will face fines beginning in August

L.A. County inspectors can ticket between $100 and $500 for businesses not following mask and distance rules, among others.

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

Between state, county and city guidelines, reopening restaurants and other businesses can be, well, confusing—and that isn’t even taking into account the industry-specific shutdowns and rollbacks we’ve seen over the last few months. Through it all, to ensure L.A. County’s dine-in, takeout and retail services are following the latest in safety guidelines, inspectors periodically visit essential businesses to help stop the spread. Those not following the latest guidelines usually receive a slap on the wrist. Starting next month, that changes. 

Today the L.A. County Department of Health shared a “compliance plan” for businesses, which outlines new steps to ensure rules such as distancing, mask usage and the shuttering of communal service areas are being followed. 

While the new plan does not specify a precise start date, it shares that beginning at the end of August, businesses located within L.A. County can face a $100 fine for first offenses, and up to a $500 fine and a 30-day permit suspension for multiple offenses. “This includes businesses licensed and permitted by the department and those that are not,” the plan adds, meaning street vendors—already uniquely impacted by the shutdown and early-reopening guidelines—are also susceptible to the new fines.

The county’s public health department has received a total of 17,808 complaints since March, and investigated more than 17,000 restaurants accordingly; of those, 26 were shut down, while most others came into compliance or were working toward coming into compliance. But restaurants and bars aren’t the only businesses being held to reopening guidelines: Inspectors also visited more than 3,500 grocery stores and over 600 pools among 3,000 other operations.

Results of county inspections have varied, even weekend to weekend. At the end of June the county found that a stunning 49 percent of bars and 33 percent of the restaurants visited weren’t properly practicing physical distancing, while workers at 54 percent of bars and 44 percent of restaurants weren’t wearing masks and face shields. Days later the findings drastically improved, with 99 percent of restaurants complying with Gov. Newsom’s recent outdoor-only dining rules; 98 percent complying with social distancing regulations; 99 percent of customers wearing masks; and 82 percent of employees wearing some form of face shields. 

“I’m pleased that we’re seeing great compliance in some areas and we want to continue to see that,” L.A. County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer says in today’s statement. “But we need to plan for the long-term reopening of our economic sectors while ensuring the public health and safety of our residents and our workforce. We want to be reasonable and work with business owners, but we also know that time is of the essence to slow the spread of this virus and protect the health of workers, customers, and their families.”

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